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  • Writer's pictureShelbey Kendall

In honor of International Kissing Day....

Last year I entered quite a few fictional contests. You'd receive a genre, a subject, and a character and have to create a story to compete against several others. My favorite was when I received Romantic Comedy as my genre in the short story competition, which should come as no surprise. I received 2nd place in my group and I was awarded advancement in the competition until I didn't make it after writing a story in the genre of Horror.


In honor of International Kissing Day, I thought I would re-share my entry. It's raw and unedited as it is exactly as I submitted it after the 48 hours I had to create it. As I read over it now there are several things I would change to improve upon the 2,500 words I had to play with, but that's the beautiful thing about growth in your writing.


Enjoy it as it is for a little feel-good romance that might just make a smile stretch across your face.


 

Hitchhiking and the Heart

By Shelbey Kendall

Synopsis:

Sometimes the things we think we are looking for aren’t the things we are meant to discover. In pursuit of a music career, Amber finds something else on the way.

Assignment:

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Subject Overconfidence.

Character : a teamster

 

 

My best friend was probably right. Hitchhiking was a bad idea.


The thoughts of murder and being dumped somewhere remote swirled through my once confident brain that had originally conjured up this plan, but there was no going back now as a large 18-wheeler slowed to a stop. I took a deep breath, remembering the reason I was doing this, and then I climbed up and opened the passenger door.


“Where you going to?” the driver asked. His voice had a rough quality to it that made me think of axes and overwhelming aftershave, two things a killer may possess.


“Nashville,” I replied, making sure I gave stubborn spirit to my tone, if only to convince myself that making the trek across the country with nothing but written recommendations and a dream in my backpack was enough to ensure my success. I hoped it would also detour any thoughts about how small and weak I may appear.


“I can get you near there, but you’ll have to figure out the rest of the way,” the man replied and then added, “You’re lucky I picked you up. No woman should be out here begging for a ride.”


It was the first time I really looked him over, my fear of my possible demise overshadowing the need to look over my potential killer. His jaw was sharp, and a toothpick danced between his lips, his tongue rolling it from side-to-side. His blonde hair was unkempt along with overgrown facial hair.


I straightened up, pulling my shoulders back into a position that made me look a few inches taller and replied, “How do I know I’m lucky? You could be a murderer.”


“True,” he said as he turned slightly and gave me a wink. “I’m Blake, by the way. No convictions or time served, except for that one time the police caught me skinny dipping in the local pool. They thought a night in jail would straighten me out.”


I laughed and then asked, “And did it?”


“Depends on who is defining being straightened out,” he replied, turning his focus back to the road ahead. “You are?”


My face flushed and was thankful his attention had left me.


“Amber.”


“Well, Amber. I’ve got one rule in this truck. You can listen to whatever music you’d like on the radio, except country.”


I felt my face scrunch into confusion as I studied his appearance in a plaid flannel and stained jeans. This man seemed to be the epitome of a country song.


“That’s unfortunate, but doable,” I said as I reached out to turn the knob to locate classic rock.

------

 

A few hours passed as the cityscape of Denver had disappeared in the rearview mirror. Now it was open fields and fences holding in cows. My worn leather book was splayed out on my lap as I scribbled new lyrics and crossed out lines. I felt his eyes on me. Words had only been written since I turned the radio on.


“What’s that?” he asked, finally popping the bubble of silence.


“Just something I’m working on,” I replied. I kept my head down, my auburn hair falling over my face.


“For whatever is waiting for you in Nashville?” he questioned.


“Hopefully.” I sat up, tugging my hair back into place behind my ears.


“Looks like songwriting from over here.”


I felt a blush bloom over my body, struggling to gather up the courage I had to get in the truck in the first place. I bit my lip, unsure how he’d react to the fact that there was a girl pursuing country music sitting next to him.


“Do you play?” he asked.


“I do, but I sold my guitar a few months ago.”


“So, how do you expect to make it without your guitar?”


“I’ll figure it out,” I said as I shrugged my shoulders.

-----

 

I must have nodded off, because the next thing I knew we were slowing down pulling into a fuel station. I wiped the anxious sleep from my eyes with the back of my hands.


“Where are we?” I asked as a yawn escaped at the same time.


Blake smiled and distracted me from hearing his answer. His smile was like a lazy river, the kind you want to float in all day. My stomach did a flop, and I realized his rugged appearance was one of the unfortunately handsome varieties.


“Are you alright?”


I shook myself from what was apparently a glazed over trance and then stumbled over the words as I replied, “Still just partially asleep. Sorry, I didn’t catch where we were.”


“Kansas. You haven’t missed much when it comes to scenery,” he joked. Then he dared to flash me another one of those delicious smiles that began to twist my nerves into tangles within. This could be a problem.


“If you need anything, now’s your chance,” he said.


“Need anything?” I questioned.


“From the convenience store,” he replied.


“Oh.”


What I really needed was to not enjoy him smiling at me. I needed to get myself together. Was I really that desperate for attention?


Then, as if my abrasive confidence decided to overcome me in that one moment, I said, “Let’s make a deal.”


“A deal?” He lifted his eyebrows up revealing even more of his mesmerizing blue eyes.


“I’m going to buy a package of peanut M&M’s, my favorite. If I guess how many are in the bag, we listen to country music.”


“That’s ridiculous.”


“Ridiculous or not, do we have a deal?”


Blake rolled his eyes at me, as if I had just said the most foolish thing ever.

“Tell me your guess now before you buy the bag.”


This time I rolled my eyes and said, “You think I’ll somehow rig it?”


“I’m not taking any chances when it comes to breaking my one rule.”


“Fine,” I said as I placed my hands on my hips. “48.”


Blake put his right hand out in my direction.


“It’s not a deal if we don’t shake on it,” he said.


I placed my small hand in his large one and felt warmth as his wrapped mine in a grasp. I held my breath, trying to not let his touch bother me.

-----

 

“You rigged it!” he exclaimed.


I had just counted out forty-eight M&M’s winning my right to change the radio to a country station. I laughed. Not one of those laughs that sluff off the surface, but one that bubbles up from somewhere deep where happy childhood memories exist.


He may have lost the deal, but I caught him smiling at me once again which only fueled my arrogance, emblazoning me to give him a playful punch on the shoulder.


“Don’t be a sore loser!” I shouted back.


“Okay, but it’s only country music for the rest of the day. Tomorrow, it’s gone.”


I squealed with delight and didn’t know why. It was a silly deal and such a small victory, but something about it made me feel as if taking the risks I was towards bigger dreams was worth it.


I settled back in, pulling my seatbelt back over me. I heard Blake sigh as he did the same.

Then we were off on the road again, but this time I turned the dial over to country.

 

-----

 

The song on the radio captivated me. The musician’s voice was deep and slightly abrasive, but in the way that gives the song more grit. The guitar picking riddled my mind with the possibility of the melodies that could be plucked so wonderfully on the strings.


I looked over at Blake and his face was as still and cold as a statue covered in a fresh touch of ice.


“That was Blake McGibben,” the first voice on the radio said.


Then a second asked, “What ever happened to him?”


The first voice replied, “No one knows where he is now. He disappeared after his songs topped the charts.”


“I can’t imagine walking away from such success,” I said. “What he had is all I’ve ever wanted.”


“Well, sometimes all you’ve ever wanted makes you trip and fall.” His voice had a sharp edge to it that sliced through the air.


“What is that supposed to mean?”


“I wish you success, Amber. I do. But be careful about the pedestals you let others put you on. The tumble down from inflated pride is hell,” he grumbled; his eyes bunched at the corners as he stared ahead at the road.


I decided to press my teeth into my bottom lip, allowing an uncomfortable quiet to crawl into the cab with us.

-----

 

The blackness of night had meshed into the asphalt of the highway. Blake took an exit, pulling into a motel.


“Do you have money for a room?” he asked softly. His icy demeanor had melted over the last few hours.


“Can I just sleep in the truck?” I asked, knowing that the few bills I had tucked in my wallet were needed for Nashville. I turned to the back of the cab, hoping to discover a comfortable bed, but instead I just spotted a beat-up guitar case stuffed behind my seat.


“I’ll get you a room,” he replied as he unbuckled and left.


I remained in the truck, feeling embarrassed that the man I bummed a ride from was paying for my motel room, but I also knew I couldn’t afford it. I replayed the day in my head, slightly proud of myself for deciding to go through with my plan, however stupid it may seem. But my brain snagged on the conversation that had made Blake’s warmth dissipate.


Blake McGibben was the artist on the radio.


There was a guitar behind me, or at least a case. He didn’t want to listen to country music. His name was Blake.


And then it hit me as it should have hours before.


The driver I hitched a ride with was Blake McGibben, the missing country star.

-----

 

He climbed back in the truck dangling a motel key from his fingers that I now knew plucked amazing melodic tunes.


“A place to rest for the night,” he said as he tossed the key in my direction.


I took a deep breath and said, “Thanks, Blake McGibben.”


The sigh that escaped from his lips was heavy, the weight of the truth pulling down on the air around us.


“Playing Sherlock now?” he questioned quietly.


“You don’t have to explain it all to me,” I began, “but I do want to know what would cause someone to run from success when it’s something I’m running towards.”


“Can I take a shower first?”


“Deal,” I said as I extended my hand, hopeful he’d wrap a small part of me back in his warmth.

-----

I also had managed to convince him to let me haul his guitar to the motel room, and that’s how I found myself strumming his strings to my newest lyrics while a country music star showered only feet away.


I didn’t hear him open the bathroom door and startled when he said, “You’re not bad.”


My notebook full of writings fell to the floor. Before I could set the guitar to the side, Blake was picking it up to study.  


The most inner parts of myself were woven into the words of the lyrics he was now skimming and as if that weren’t enough to cause a hot redness to creep up from my chest to my face, he was only wearing a pair of shorts.


The man was the epitome of a walking billboard ad. He felt untouchable, but the way he was sucking on his bottom lip as he was reading through my own words made me want to. Thank goodness my hands were occupied holding the guitar between us.


“These are good, Amber,” he said, releasing his lip to speak the words.


Then he reached his hand out. I stared blankly at him.


“Can I borrow your pencil?” he asked.


“Excuse me?”


“I’ve just got a few changes I think will set this one apart,” he replied, still holding his hand out expectantly.


I reluctantly handed him my pencil. I hadn’t ever let someone play with my own words before.


I watched him suck his lip back in as I heard the soft scratches of the pencil.


“I see you studying me,” he said, suddenly taking his eyes off the paper.


He gave me one of those melt-you-all-the-way-to-your-toes smiles that I’m sure deepened the red of my blush. He took a step towards me.


“Scoot over.”


I gave him room on the bed and he gently lifted the guitar out of my hands.


“I thought you hated country music,” I said.


“I don’t hate the music. I hate what it did to me,” he replied and then added, “Now, listen.”


He began to lightly strum and then he opened his mouth, and the most textured, rich voice sang along to the words of mine he had entwined with some of his own. If I wasn’t sitting down, I’m sure my knees would have given out.


He handed the guitar back to me and said, “It’s just a suggestion.”


I sat quiet for a moment, eventually able to pull my jaw back up and managed to mumble, “Why did you quit something you are so good at?”


Blake’s shoulders slumped. I placed the guitar on the bed, pulling my knees up to my chest.


“I know I’m good and that was part of the problem. I began to think more about myself than about anyone else. I had big dreams and achieved them, but the way I did pushed everyone that mattered away.”


The regret in his tone caused me to react by placing my hand on his shoulder.


“I don’t have anyone that matters,” I said quietly. “You shouldn’t worry about me making the same mistakes.”


“And what if someone wants to matter to you?”


The question hung in the air like the breath had been stolen from it.


“You don’t know me.” My words were a whisper.


“What if I wanted to know you?”


I could have sat there doubting if I was worthy of his desire, but I also wanted to know what his lips felt like on mine. Before I allowed confusion to cloud my thinking, I leaned into him. His lips met mine and every song I’ve ever written came to life in that moment.


I’d woke up that morning, charging after a dream. I just didn’t know that dream might include who was driving the 18-wheeler that picked me up.

 


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